The office can be a dangerous place. Although you might feel perfectly safe in such a cosy and comfortable environment, there’s simply no such thing as a completely hazard-free workplace, and offices expose employees to all kinds of health and safety risks.
While those working on construction sites will be more concerned with working safely at height, the dangers of office-based working are inevitably much different. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974, employers have a legal responsibility to make sure all employees are aware of these hazards, which is why health and safety eLearning courses have become so important.
Despite the modern interior, comfortable chairs and handy air-conditioning systems, offices are just like every other kind of workplace, and you have an obligation to identify dangers and implement measures to reduce the risk of an accident. These are the most common risks you’ll need to look out for:
Fire poses a major threat to every kind of workplace, and office environments certainly aren’t an exception. The heavy use of electrical equipment can always prove a particular danger, especially if these machines aren’t regularly checked and maintained. After all, it just takes a single faulty socket to spark, and the nightmare of a fire breakout could become very much a reality.
The latest government figures show that there were well over 15,000 fires in non-dwelling buildings over the past 12 months, with 551 of these occurring in offices and call centres. In addition to faulty electricals, poor housekeeping, unsafe working practices and portable heaters are often cited as common causes of workplace fires.
Organisations need to complete a fire risk assessment to highlight these hazards, and then carry out the identified recommendations to help control them. Since fire has the potential to take lives and destroy businesses, raising fire safety awareness throughout your organisation should be considered a top priority.
Slip, Trips and Falls
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) claims that falling is by far the most common form of accident in the office, finding that office workers are more than twice as likely to suffer a fall than those working in other industries. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to control any potential safety hazards and reduce the risk of an employee having an accident.
A significant number of office-based slips, trips and falls are due to wet floors and poor lighting, while loose carpeting, wires and obstructive furniture are just an accident waiting to happen. While it’s incredibly difficult to predict where someone might have a fall, removing these factors will obviously reduce the risk of an accident occurring.
Office environments can always be particularly stressful, and employers have a legal responsibility to minimise these stress-inducing factors as far as is “reasonably practicable”, as outlined in the aforementioned Health and Safety at Work Act. Last year, 15.4 million working days were lost to stress, depression and anxiety, so the importance of improving employees’ mental wellbeing isn’t too hard to see.
According to a study carried out by Perkbox, 59% of people identify work as the number one cause of intense pressure, with unrealistic expectations and an unfriendly atmosphere often proving the most stressful factors. Of course, stress can become a problem in any kind of workplace, but office environments are sometimes notorious for their long working hours and tight deadlines.
Uncontrollable stress is becoming a real issue for many office-based organisations all over the UK, and employees must be made aware of the signs, causes and risks of work-related pressure if they’re ever going to tackle the issue. Once employees know how to handle stressful situations, there’s a significantly lower chance of them having to take time off work due to their mental health.
Display Screen Equipment
The vast majority of office workers will spend most of their time staring at a computer screen, which can inevitably result in eye strain and headaches, while sitting at a desk for eight hours a day can result in all manner of ergonomic injuries – most commonly back, neck or joint pain.
These health and safety issues may seem less obvious than others, and the effects often take a longer time to develop, but you still have a legal responsibility to comply with Display Screen Equipment Regulations as a matter of urgency. By showing employees how to work with screens safely, they can avoid future issues by simply improving their posture and adopting safer working practices.